‘Tonka’ farewell tour

News April 2019

The Marham-based Tornado GR4s involved in the farewell flypast on 20 February, with ZD716 leading ZD744 and ZA587 over Duxford.

With the retirement of the Panavia Tornado from RAF service due by the end of March, a series of finale flypasts were made by a trio of Marham-based GR4s over current and former RAF bases and other locations connected with the type around the UK in mid-February.

The first flypast, at lunchtime on 19 February, was over Cottesmore, Rutland — now Kendrew Barracks — where the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) was based from 1981-99. A flyby over Warton, Lancashire, where the first British prototype Tornado, XX946, made its maiden flight on 30 October 1974, followed. Among the other locations with significant Tornado history that were flown over during the next couple of days were Coningsby, the former Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford, the Tornado maintenance base at St Athan, Leuchars, the weapons range at Tain on the Moray Firth, and finally Lossiemouth, where No XV (Reserve) Squadron was disbanded in March 2017, after 24 years of Tornado operations at the Scottish base.

The last operational strike carried out by the type was on 26 January, when two aircraft hit positions occupied by so-called Islamic State forces in Syria. The final operational flight was an uneventful six-and-a-half-hour patrol over Syria by a pair of Tornados that returned to base at Akrotiri to close out an illustrious near-40- year career with the RAF.

A total of 12 of the Marham Wing Tornados are due to be preserved. GR4 ZG752 has recently been painted in an historic grey/green camouflage scheme and is scheduled to be taken by road to Honington, Suffolk, where it will become a gate guard. Examples are also set to be roaded to Cottesmore and Warton for future display.